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Where I Saw Jesus in Vietnam

Vietnam Children

By Colleen Briggs

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Matthew 5:8

I walk down a path, rutted and baked in the sun. Red dirt stretches to blue sky, rimmed by green jungle and weathered gray wood structures.

They watch, two small girls, framed in a doorway as we near their home. Behind them, dark interior yawns to searing light. High on a platform raised on stilts with rugged plank walls, reached by a ladder, crowned by corrugated metal. The children eye us with liquid brown eyes.

I watch them as they watch me.

The adults welcome us inside. Ducking through the door frame, I pass a bed with mosquito net drawn, storage in the rafters, hammock strung. I tread across a wood floor and settle on a colored mat.

Across from me, a woman, a grandmother, sits, silhouetted against a window with wood shutter opened. Light seeps through cracks between boards. Tendrils of her hair escape like sparks, like a rim of fire around her head. Beside her leans a woman even older, great grandmother, with toothless smile. And next to them, the youngest woman, a mother piled with baby and the two girls I saw earlier.

They give us bottles of water. Oblivious, we peel back the seal. Cool liquid soothes the dusty hot.

Through translation, the grandmother tells us of the recent death of her son-in-law, husband to her daughter, the young woman beside her. And of her daughter’s chronic blood disorder. And of their desperation for water. Although a nonprofit recently attempted to drill a well, they hit bedrock and only a diamond bit will allow access.

I set my half-empty water bottle on the floor next to me.

The youngest woman listens, mute and inexpressive, her children peering around her shoulder.

We ask to pray for her.

My friend sits in front of the mother and clasps her hands. The woman smiles and tightly grips her fingers like a lifeline.

Around the two, we bend forward, like ripples catching the light. My friend speaks, her words are translated. She leans into the woman’s pain; grabs hold of faith. And for a split second, Jesus’s heart flows through a pure and unadulterated conduit. Not because of who she is, but because of who He is.

The membrane between human existence and transcendence slips.

For just that split second, the Kingdom of God courses in our veins, the memory of who we were made to be, of who we will become. Living water leaks from heaven to earth.

And then, with a thud, we land back into the dust we are now.

I shift, my leg tingles. Hard wood presses into my knee.

When we say good-bye, the young mother clings to my friend.

Outside the home, I sling my arm around my friend’s shoulder and emotion wells. My friend says, “All I could think while I prayed is ‘Jesus wept.’”

A tear trembles, tumbles into the dirt. And it remembers my tears of the past. Always with the poorest of the poor, the most desperate. Holding an orphan dying of AIDS. Singing to a woman in a slum hovel, hovering at death’s door. Again and again, I find Him there, standing in the shadows, in the least likely places.

In those moments when His tear becomes mine, I touch His face. His fiercely tender gaze pierces me, ruins me.

Tears that start as pain shimmer into joy.

I see Him.



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